Google Earth, on the web
June 30, 2019 9:38 PM   Subscribe

Google Earth is now available, in beta form, on the web! [Edit: Chrome only]
posted by slater (28 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
WOW!
posted by Going To Maine at 9:43 PM on June 30


Is it the 3D view? Because I can already do that in Google Maps.
posted by monospace at 9:46 PM on June 30


As with most ports of mature desktop apps to web clients, so far the UI is much more clunky. Hopefully it'll get better someday.
posted by anarch at 10:04 PM on June 30


Not ready for Firefox yet.
posted by rmmcclay at 10:21 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I wish Google Maps satellite imagery was updated as often as Google Earth. You'd think they'd be eating the same data feed, but nope.
posted by ryanrs at 11:37 PM on June 30 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, I have often found Earth to be the one with older imagery. To be fair, often isn't all that many times, as I don't use Earth very frequently and I rarely compare the two, it's just that when I have Maps has had the newest imagery of the two in the place I was interested in at the time.

For the most part, I don't look at either of them very carefully, as the license prohibits me from using Google's imagery for the tasks that require me to examine overhead imagery with any particular care. The aerial/satellite view makes a good base layer in Maps for basic orienteering, though, so I do frequently use it in that way.

I could swear there has been a basic web app version of Earth ever since ChromeOS was released, but maybe I'm confusing it with a Chrome extension.
posted by wierdo at 11:55 PM on June 30 [2 favorites]


I so wish all this data and tech were in the commons for the good of all, instead of locked away inside an ad- and data-mining- supported company, certain to expire someday.
posted by allium cepa at 12:31 AM on July 1 [13 favorites]


I spent a lot of time computer-scouting federal land (mostly national forest and BLM), and there's a ton of public maps and imagery available.

It's mostly crap, at least from a usability standpoint.
posted by ryanrs at 12:59 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]


I had thought this was all online already. What's the difference between Google Earth and Google Maps?
posted by straight at 1:18 AM on July 1


I'm sure I saw this a while ago. It just shows an error message in Firefox and tells you to go get Chrome and come back when you're using the correct browser.

If it's only available when you use Google's own browser, can it really be considered to be "on the web" rather than "on a web server and available to a subset of web users"?
posted by winterhill at 1:45 AM on July 1 [13 favorites]


> Is it the 3D view? Because I can already do that in Google Maps.

Google Maps' isn't 3D. Maps is a 2D representation with something like a pseudo-3D mode where you can see blocks arranged in a way Google believes buildings and other obstacles are placed. It's not an actual 3D model of a space with terrain and texture. Google Earth is an actual 3D model.

If this analogy helps, it's kind of like how modern FPS games work vs. how Doom works.

And I have to agree with other comments here: If something only works in Chrome, it's not really a website, it's a device-specific app accessible online. Kind of like running an ActiveX site in 2004.
posted by at by at 2:29 AM on July 1 [7 favorites]


[Added a note that it's Chrome only, so people using other browsers will be alerted.]
posted by taz (staff) at 3:38 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]


Sadly it seems they're restricting it to official Chrome builds, as well. I can't use it with Chromium (which is a re-compile of Chrome with fewer spyware trackers in it).
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 3:45 AM on July 1 [4 favorites]


Google Earth is a surprisingly serious tool of the trade in computational geography or GIS, so this is really quite an interesting development if it helps make it more easily available.

Though having just been playing around with a brand new Valve Index, my favourite is always going to be Google Earth VR.
posted by Eleven at 3:53 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Ah, so app based, not web based. /web misleading you to their chrome app.
posted by filtergik at 4:08 AM on July 1


No disrespect to USGS or EarthExplorer, but often, in the USA, your county assessor will have the most up to date aerial photography. Real estate seems to rule the aerial photo game.

During Harvey, when airspace was restricted and the coast guard was pulling grandmas out of flooded homes, the real estate surveys were still flying.
posted by eustatic at 4:11 AM on July 1


This isn't new; it's been around since April 2017. And very useful. Shame it's Chrome-only, and not sure why. WebGL should be capable of doing everything it needs.

The Chrome HTML implementation is bizarro-world, starting with a fake HTML tag <earth-app> and then disappearing into a DOM node that Chrome developer tools identifies as "#shadow-root". I have literally no idea what that is; is that some super-aggressive Javascript framework that is ultimately implemented in terms of WebGL? Or does Chrome have special code for Google Earth compiled into it?
posted by Nelson at 8:15 AM on July 1 [2 favorites]




When they made Earth web based, I quit it. I loved having my own copy and the feeling my explorations were private. I mean, we all cherish our pet illusions, you know. Then Chrome and it's predatory...anyway.
posted by Oyéah at 9:53 AM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Shame it's Chrome-only, and not sure why

Because google depends on advertising, of course. That's why they're killing ad-blockers in Chrome.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:54 AM on July 1


If it's only available when you use Google's own browser, can it really be considered to be "on the web" rather than "on a web server and available to a subset of web users"?

This. Also yeah, it was already there.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:03 AM on July 1


Google Maps' isn't 3D. Maps is a 2D representation with something like a pseudo-3D mode where you can see blocks arranged in a way Google believes buildings and other obstacles are placed. It's not an actual 3D model of a space with terrain and texture. Google Earth is an actual 3D model.

This is incorrect; the 3D models in this version of Google Earth, with shapes and textures derived from aerial imagery, seem to be the exact same ones that Google Maps shows in its "satellite" view.
posted by teraflop at 11:38 AM on July 1


Thanks taz for the edit! It's weird, I was looking at this in Firefox (v. 67.0.4, on latest macOS) last night, and there were no issues? Very odd.
posted by slater at 12:05 PM on July 1


The notable bit about this release is it actually does escape from a previous Chrome-only solution (NaCL for extensions that use native code) to a W3C standard* that claims (eventual) cross browser support called Webassembly (often abbreviated WASM).

Here's a Google blog about that journey to a standards-based solution.

Here's the Google Earth help page on the beta release.

* The Webassembly standard has definitely been pushed harder by Google than other browser manufacturers, but it is a standard and is supported in Firefox

As to why this particular link at this time does not appear to be working in your particular Firefox browser, I would head over to the Firefox Webassembly support forums before necessarily diagnosing the issue as Google's nefarious intentions.
posted by abulafa at 12:31 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]


I used Google Earth on the web all the time when I was a Chrome user, for several years at least. Now I'm using Firefox, and miss it, though I do have it on my iPad.
posted by lhauser at 7:06 PM on July 1


metafilter.kml works in it.
posted by unliteral at 7:17 PM on July 1


Thanks, abulafa. So Google Earth Web is the old Google Earth C++ app recompiled to Web Assembly with Emscripten. We're seeing larger and larger WASM apps in web browsers now; full video game console emulators, etc. It feels like a technology on the cusp of being ready for regular consumer and business use. As you say there's no reason in principle Google Earth can't work on Firefox and other browsers; plenty of other WASM apps do. But I can understand if Google doesn't want to take the time to finish and test the port for what is basically a tech demo.
posted by Nelson at 7:11 AM on July 2


Oh man, all my confusion about this post has cleared up thanks to this article seen on Hacker News.
The Google Earth team recently released a beta preview of a WebAssembly port of Google Earth. The new port runs in Chrome and other Chromium-based browsers, including Edge (Canary version) and Opera, as well as Firefox. The port thus brings cross-browser support to the existing Earth For Web version, which uses the native C++ codebase and Chrome’s Native Client (NaCl) technology
The link at the top of this post was probably intended to be this link to the new beta version: https://earth.google.com/web/?beta=1. This WASM version works in Firefox and presumably other browsers and is brand new. The post here links to the old NaCL version from 2017 that was Chrome-only.
posted by Nelson at 7:41 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


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